The Knicks, save for two and a half ugly quarters, had dominated the Celtics in almost every way in the first-round series coming into game three on Friday night, but the concern was that once the emotional crowd in Boston had a chance to pick up their veteran, one-last-go-around Celtics, the Knicks would lose all momentum in the series. This was a reasonable notion, and it very well might have happened, had it not been for one thing: The Boston crowd, after the understated and well-done pregame ceremony for Boston first responders, barely had a single thing to cheer for all night. It was one of those nights when you could hardly tell there was a crowd at all. You can’t blame the Celtics fans. Anyone would have sat there in stunned silence.
The Knicks blew away the Celtics 90-76 Friday night (it wasn’t as close as the score) to take a commanding, insurmountable-in-NBA-history 3-0 series lead, and the game was essentially over before halftime. (At one point, we’re pretty sure you could hear sneaker echoes at TD Garden.) The Knicks still didn’t have the free-flowing offense we saw in the last month of the season — though with Carmelo Anthony taking the game over and putting it away in the third quarter, that didn’t really matter — but the defense was so stifling, the offense didn’t have much work to do anyway. Combining the last two quarters of game two and the first two quarters of this one, the Celtics scored a total of 54 points. If you were to turn that into one individual game, it would be the lowest scoring Celtics game in the shot clock era … by eight full points. In the playoffs. Though considering how discombobulated the Celtics looked any time they tried to run a basic offensive set, the Knicks can’t take all the credit.
Let’s not get too down on the Knicks offense, though. It was a lovely night from all sorts of directions, particularly from the point guards. Raymond Felton was able to get into the lane repeatedly — no one will ever say the Celtics are better without Rajon Rondo ever again — and Pablo Prigioni was downright inspiring to watch. This series is coming down to the fact that the Knicks have three point guards and the Celtics don’t have any … and also the Celtics are old and exhausted … and also J.R. Smith finally did something stupid, throwing an elbow and getting ejected, and it happened at the most innocuous moment imaginable and he seemed legitimately repentant about it … and also the Celtics seriously didn’t run a single freaking play all game … and also the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony at the peak of his abilities … and also a ton of other things that aren’t immediately leaping to mind right now. There is simply nothing the Knicks aren’t better at than the Celtics right now, by a dramatic margin.
The Knicks have a 3-0 series lead on the Celtics right now. Read that sentence again. The Knicks’ three playoff wins in the last six days are as many as they notched in the thirteen years before this week. Tonight was the Knicks’ first road playoff win in twelve years, and also, they made this happen.
This is no longer “wow, the Knicks are in the playoffs and they’re winning games that’s amazing!” bonus period. This is the Knicks destroying — ending an historic era of, really — a division rival and looking for all the world as good as any team in the NBA not named Miami. The Knicks are blowing away the Celtics. They are ridiculously fun to watch. They are doing absolutely everything right. And in about 43 hours, at this rate, they are going to be heading to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time in 4,726 days. (Justin Bieber was six.) The Knicks are making this look so easy that it doesn’t quite feel real. But it is real. And there is a lot of it left to come.